Love me non-tender

By in Pitching. Tags: · Comments (76) ·

As the Yankees gear up for a run that will hopefully take them deep into October, a former key cog of the pitching staff will be watching from the sidelines. One-time staff ace Chien-Ming Wang has been a non-factor much of the last two seasons. In a freak accident in Houston last summer, he injured his foot and never really recovered. This year, he suffered through a bad spring and underwent shoulder surgery that will sideline him until mid-2010.

For many pitchers, a stretch such as Wang’s would signal the end of a career. After winning 19 games in back-to-back seasons, Wang was historically bad this year. He went 1-6 in 12 games before surgery and allowed over two baserunners per inning. Now, his Yankee future is in doubt.

Wang is arbitration-eligible this year, and he turns 30 at the end of March. This confluence of factors along with his injury and ineffectiveness has led many to question whether the Yankees will offer Wang a contract. In a Yankee Notebook piece, Peter Abraham broached that very topic. The LoHud scribe writes:

In his first public comments since the surgery, Wang said he hopes to start playing catch again in January and believes he will pitch in the major leagues at some point in 2010. But he realizes that may not be with the Yankees.

Wang had a $5 million contract this season and is eligible for arbitration. There is virtually no chance the Yankees will offer him arbitration before the December deadline. That would leave Wang a free agent. “I would like to stay in New York,” he said. “But I don’t know what will happen.”

One possibility is that the Yankees could offer Wang a minor-league contract. Or another team could sign him to a major-league deal and hope that he returns to form. “That’s something we won’t even think about until November,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “Those are issues for another day.”

In a piece on MLB Trade Rumors, RAB’s own Mike Axisa pondered the Wang question as well. Mike too believes the Yankees will look to offer Wang a minor league contract, but the threat of another team offering him a Major League deal looms. After all, Wang will be on the 60-day disabled list until he’s ready to pitch next year. He won’t take up a 40-man spot and won’t require a major guaranteed investment.

While Cashman won’t tackle this question until November, I can’t see the Yankees letting Wang walk. The team has been loathe to commit to paying Wang, and as his recent injury history has shown, that decision has paid off. Now, though, the Yankees understand the need for pitching depth.

They also know what Wang can do if he’s healthy. While that’s a rather big “if” at this point in his career, it’s a chance the Yanks should take. I doubt Wang is expecting the same $5 million deal he received this year, and as long as the two sides can come to terms, there is no reason to for the Yankees to cut Chien-Ming Wang loose.

Categories : Pitching
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Triple-A Scranton (4-1 win over Gwinnett) SWB leads the best-of-five series 2-0 … The Ghost of Kei Igawa gets the ball in Game Three tomorrow
Freddy Guzman: 0 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SB
Reegie Corona & Juan Miranda: both 2 for 4 – Corona doubled & scored a run … Miranda drove in a run
Austin Jackson & Kevin Russo: both 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K – Russo got moved down to fifth in the order, and it paid off
John Rodriguez & Doug Bernier: both 1 for 4 – J-Rod K’ed … Bernier committed a throwing error
Colin Curtis & Chris Stewart: both 0 for 4 - Curtis drove in a run & K’ed … Stewart allowed a passed ball
Ivan Nova: 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 15-1 GB/FB – 65 of 92 pitches were strikes (70.7%) … what more you can say? that’s as good as it gets right there
Zach Kroenke: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 9 of 12 pitches were strikes
Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K - just 13 of 24 pitches were strikes (54.2%) … allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base, but rebounded in a big way

Double-A Trenton’s season is over. Connecticut leads New Britain 2-0 in their best-of-five series while Akron leads Reading 1-0 in the series and 6-2 in tonight’s game.

High-A Tampa swept Brevard County in Round One of the playoffs (best-of-three) and will take on the winner of tonight’s Fort Myers-Charlotte game in the Florida State League Championship. The best-of-five series starts tomorrow.

Low-A Charleston‘s season is over. Lakewood leads Kannapolis 1-0 their best-of-three series, and Greeneville has a 3-2 lead on Asheville in the first game of their series tonight.

Short Season Staten Island‘s game with Lowell was rained out. The best-of-three series is tied at one, and the finale will be made up Saturday night at 7pm. Robert Pimpsner says Caleb Cotham – who was scheduled to start Game Three when the series started – was put on the disabled list and replaced with Jose Ramirez, who tore up the GCL this year. Mahoning Valley has already swept Brooklyn, so they’ll face the winner of Saturday’s game in the championship series (best-of-three).

The Rookie GCL Yanks season is over after they lost to the GCL Marlins in Round One of the playoffs. The GCL Nats won the league championship.

Categories : Down on the Farm
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It always makes for a dull night when the Yankees are off, but having a day off with a nine game lead sure beats the alternative. Anyway, Matthew Pouliet at NBC Sports is running a series where he takes a look at what roster a team could field if you could only use players the club originally signed. Sorry that it’s from last weekend, we kind of pulled a LaRussa and fell asleep at the wheel on this one. Here’s the team the Yanks could field:

Rotation: Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Chien-Ming Wang, Jose Contreras

Bullpen: Mariano Rivera, Russ Springer, Phil Coke, Tyler Clippard, Manny Acosta, David Robertson, Jeff Karstens

Lineup: SS Derek Jeter, 1B Nick Johnson, C Jorge Posada, DH Hideki Matsui, LF Alfonso Soriano, 2B Robinson Cano, RF Juan Rivera, 3B Mike Lowell, CF Melky Cabrera

Bench: INF Cristian Guzman, OF Brett Gardner, OF Marcus Thames, C Dioner Navarro

Obviously the lineup is pretty damn good, and if nothing else the pitching staff has some promise. I guess there’s no room for Brad Ausmus, though. It’s pretty amazing that most of the pitching staff is made up of guys who came through the system pretty recently. It just goes to show that you can spend all the money in the world on pitching, but you still need to develop some of your own to contend.

* * *

Here’s your open thread for the off night. The Mets play the Fish at 7pm, but more importantly, my domination of the RAB Fantasy Football League starts tonight. The Steelers and Titans kick off the 2009 NFL Season tonight in Steeltown, so your days are numbered, tsjc. Anything goes here, just be cool.

Categories : Open Thread
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Updated 6:05 p.m.: The Yankees have just updated us with information about David Robertson. The right-handed strike-out specialist reported elbow discomfort earlier this week, and after getting an MRI in New York, he saw Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion. The arm expert has recommended 10-14 days of rest for Robertson before the reliever should restart a throwing program. With 3.5 weeks left in the regular season, the Yankees could get Robertson back before the playoffs if his elbow responds well to treatment.

In fact, according to team officials, Robertson’s rest should line him up for a return before the playoffs. George A. King III spoke with Brian Cashman, and the Yanks’ GM was bullish on two-week return for Robertson. “He won’t be out more than 10 days to two weeks,” Brian Cashman said to King. “He should be pitching before September [ends]. It’s great news. I talked to [his] agent and David is really is pumped. Like everyone else, he wants to be part of it and he wants to be healthy.”

Over the last few weeks, Robertson had emerged as one of Joe Girardi‘s go-to guys for the middle innings. The 24-year-old has thrown 41 innings over 42 appearances and has a 3.29 ERA. He has allowed 34 hits while walking 22 and striking out 61 or 13.4 per 9 IP, tops among Yankee pitchers. All of a sudden, Brian Bruney, Phil Coke and Damaso Marte have to be ready to step up their games.

Categories : Injuries
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During his post-game press conference last night, Derek Jeter was clearly anxious to play through this off-day. As much as we fans want to see him break Lou Gehrig’s hit record, the Captain just wanted to get it over and one with, and it seemed as though he would have kept playing last night just to clear this distraction.

No matter the day, though, it will happen. It might happen in the first inning tomorrow; it might happen later in the game. Before Friday — or Saturday if the rain comes — is over, the Yankees’ all-time hit leader will be Derek Sanderson Jeter.

Lest we forget exactly what Jeter has accomplished, Modell’s is already gearing up to cash in on Jeter-mania. To that end, the sporting goods store is going to start selling an exclusive commemorative t-shirt tomorrow even though Derek isn’t technically the all-time hits leader. The shirt will cost $17.99 for adults and $15.99 for children. Make no mistake about it, that’s Derek’s t-shirt through and through.


Feel free to click for an even larger version of the captain. We’ll be back at 7 p.m. tonight with your regularly scheduled open thread. Days off during a pennant race, while good for resting the team, make for interminable Thursday evenings.

Categories : Whimsy
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“He doesn’t try hard enough. He’s not putting in enough effort. That guy’s just lazy, and we see it all the time.” These are common refrains from fans when good players and teams perform poorly. From high up in our ivory towers, we levy judgment on these players, deeming their efforts unworthy. It is apparently our divine right as fans, to decide whether a ballplayer is giving his all or is dogging it.

The reason we do this is simple: humans love narrative and hate the unexplainable. Oftentimes, a slump is unexplainable. Coaches might point to a mechanical flaw, but even then it’s usually not at the heart of the issue. Over the course of a 162-game season, players will streak and slump. It’s the nature of the game, and it’s been going on since its inception.

Rather than accepting that slumps happen, writers, reporters, and fans tend to concoct an acceptable narrative. Depending on the player, it might be that the player isn’t trying. This seems to be the case with Joba Chamberlain, as my man Moshe Mandel of The Yankee Universe notes. Media like blogs and Twitter have given fans a stronger voice, and too frequently they’re using it to express feelings of disgust towards players. Unfortunately, these narratives usually don’t line up with reality. I’ll let Moshe explain.

Unless a player is obviously dogging it, it is impossible to discern whether a player is giving his all by watching on television. We can try and interpret the events on the field, but ultimately, we just do not have enough information about the player’s level of preparation, will to improve, or willingness to try new things. Usually, a player who is not performing or is making the same errors repeatedly is trying to change, but cannot execute. Does anyone truly believe that these players are satisfied with failure on the largest stage for baseball in the world? The assumption should be that the players are attempting to avoid failure unless they clearly show otherwise.

Emphasis mine. Yes, there are players who dog it. Undoubtedly. I would think that most of them would get weeded out before they make the majors, though. There are only 750 major league roster spots. Eventually, if a player isn’t giving a solid effort, his performance relative to those 750 players is going to drop off. Sure, the player might have a ton of promise, and might be on a team that is more concerned about the future than about the present. But eventually either the team is going to have to care about the present, or else the player will grow older, thus removing the “young” part of young and promising. Removing the “promising” tag doesn’t come long after.

R.J. Anderson of DRays Bay covered this topic in depth last week. He took a bit different angle, trying to divide ballplayers into castes. Some, like our own Derek Jeter, are unassailable. Yet there are others, like Joba and B.J. Upton, with whom we grow frustrated. They don’t say the right thing — whatever that may be — at the right time. Even more so, they’re usually a talented lot who make hard things look easy at times. So when things aren’t going right, it’s easy to criticize them for dogging it, because their effortless demeanor isn’t translating into results.

These two paragraphs from Anderson really hit home for me:

Imagine practicing an instrument nearly every single day since you were 12-years-old. For more than half your life, all you know is playing that instrument. You play some concerts, some shows at a club, and as it turns out, people like you. The club starts paying you upfront and things look great, but you’ve been doing this for 12+ years. What drives you to continue? It wasn’t the money until recently; it isn’t the fame because you have little. Is it the desire to master the craft?

Upton has put in more hours at a baseball field than most of us will our entire lives. By suggesting that he doesn’t care about the game you’re suggesting that most of his life is irrelevant to him. I suppose it could be true, but why the hell would he continue to play if he hated and was disinterested by it?

Upton is an apt example here because of last night’s game. He caught a lot of crap for apparently dogging it on a few fly balls. Because he didn’t appear to be busting it on these plays, many fans thought he was just dogging it. The problem with this narrative is that there is a well-known physical issue behind Upton’s play. He recently sprained his ankle, and was removed from the game because he re-aggravated it. Yet even with this information in hand, many will still chalk it up to a lack of effort and write off the injury as some sort of excuse.

I understand why people love narrative — who doesn’t love a good story? — but I still can’t understand why people use them to demonize ballplayers. Is it jealousy? Anderson used a great real life example there, but that’s not the case for most of us. We labor away at jobs we dislike, and yes, sometimes we dog it. But, as with the musician, it’s different for the ballplayer. In most cases, it’s all they know how to do. If Joba Chamberlain didn’t play baseball, what would he do? Does he know how to do anything else?

This isn’t a knock on Joba. In fact, it’s a high compliment. I’m not sure about everyone, but I’d love to have one thing I was really good at, better than most of my peers. Because once you can identify that in yourself, you can work at that harder than anything else. Then maybe you can break the monotonous 9-to-5 cycle and do something you love. Yet most of us don’t get a chance to do something we love. And maybe that’s where envy sets in, because these ballplayers do what they love every day, and they are paid handsomely for it.

None of this will stop anyone from criticizing ballplayers for dogging it. I just think that overusing this line of criticism takes away from situations where a player actually is dogging it. Don’t get me wrong, they do exist. But the natural market forces at work in baseball will weed them out eventually, whether in the minors, for the less talented portion, or in the majors, for those so exquisitely talented that they can play among the 750 best players in the country without giving their all.

Ballplayers slump, and ballplayers struggle. Always have, always will. It happens to the best, and it happens to the mediocre. Our natural inclination is to set a narrative to the players’ failures, and all too often that narrative accuses the player of not putting enough effort into a game they’ve played at a high level since they were teenagers (at least). Most times there is no concrete explanation to these slumps and struggles. They’re the natural ebbs and flows of the game. It’s tough to accept, but it’s the truth.

I realize there are a few instances of “we” in here, and I just want to be clear that I use it in the most general sense. Just so there’s no confusion, and no specific finger pointing. That’s not the point of this post.

Categories : Musings
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Derek’s greatest hit

By in Musings. Tags: · Comments (171) ·

The summer before I started college in the fall of 2001 was one of travel. I went to Europe as a high school graduation present with my parents and sister and then took a road trip with a good friend of mine to 12 baseball stadiums in ten cities. Everywhere I went, I took a backpack into the Stadium and saw few security measures, if any at all.

Everything changed during my second week of classes when terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center. I woke up to a bewildering voice mail from my dad telling me that a plane had struck the Twin Towers, and then I went to class. By the time I was out, the two buildings in Lower Manhattan had collapsed, and life as we knew it was over.

That fall is a bit of a blur in my mind. As I adjusted to life at college away from the city and my parents, I found myself on the road. I went home the weekend after Sept. 11 to be in the city and around family. I traveled up to Boston in October to visit some friends (and watch the Yanks run over the Mariners in the ALCS) and went back to school for the World Series after a stop in New York. Through it all was baseball.

When play resumed after a week off in September, the Yankees continued their march to what we hoped would be a fourth straight World Series title. After two quick losses to the A’s in New York, it seemed as though the aging Yankee had finally met their Billy Beane-inspired match. But then Derek Jeter saved the day.

That Play — the one that spawned my favorite sports column of all time — is how the baseball world knows Derek Jeter best. With Jeremy Giambi lumbering around the bases and Shane Spencer digging a ball out of the corner, Derek Jeter came out of nowhere to save an errant throw and shuttle-pass the ball of Jorge Posada. Giambi didn’t slide; Posada tagged the runner; and the Yankees’ season was saved.

Jeter will soon hold the Yankees’ all-time hits record. He’ll become the first New York Yankee to top 3000 hits. Yet, his defining image will always be The Play to save the season in 2001. His baseball instincts are just tremendous.

After that ALDS, the Yankees tore through the winningest team in AL history and drew a match-up against the Diamondbacks. New York City and I continued to heal. The city came together for a celebration of the Yankees, and the Yanks seemed predestined to win the World Series. I went to game three that year with my sister, and while the Yankees won, it was the least climactic of the games played in the Bronx.

The next night, I was watching the game with some first-year friends and a few upperclassmen, and despair settled among the room when the 9th inning rolled around. The Yankees were just three outs away from going down 3 games to one against a Diamondbacks’ team led by two fierce pitchers. But Tino Martinez delivered a huge two-run home run into the night, and the Yankees were alive.

In the tenth, the clock at Yankee Stadium struck midnight, and for the first time in baseball history, the World Series reached into November. It was a cool, crisp night, and Byung-Hyun Kim quickly got two quick outs. Then, Derek Jeter came up. Jeter worked the count full and then some. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Jeter swung and the ball soared into the night. Reggie Sanders tried to track it down, but the Stadium erupted as Jeter raised his fist in celebration. The Yankees had won an improbable game, and we were jumping for joy and disbelief.

Of course, the Yankees were do it again the next night before faltering in the desert. As Luis Gonzalez’s single fell past a misplaced infield, New York’s World Series hopes died. To me though, that home run — Derek’s only RBI of the 2001 World Series — was Derek’s greatest hit. It brought the city unimaginable joy at a time when it needed it the most, and as I settled into college and Derek’s ball into the right field stands, I knew everything would be okay.

Categories : Musings
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2009 Minor League Awards

By in Minors. Tags: · Comments (122) ·

It feels like just yesterday, but it’s already been five months since Juan Miranda started the season off with a bang. The Yankees dealt with their usual rash of injuries in the minors and more than their fair share of disappointments, but they also enjoyed some breakout seasons as well. The six stateside affiliates combined for a 381-309 record this season, making it at least the 18th consecutive season the affiliates have combined for an over .500 record.

Remember, this isn’t a ranking of prospects. It’s just a post intended to recognize those players in the minors who put together exceptional seasons, regardless of age, prospect status, etc. In order to keep things fresh, the player who won the MiL Player of the Year Award was ineligible to win the Hitter/Pitcher of the Year Award, like I’ve aways done it.

Because looking back in the past is always fun, here are my 2007 and 2008 awards posts. Unfortunately, my 2006 awards post has been lost in MVN purgatory. If you have any praise or complaints, you know where to stick them. The good stuff starts after the jump.

Read More→

Categories : Minors
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If baseball writers interpret Most Valuable Player as best player, Joe Mauer will be the clear-cut choice for AL MVP. He’s so far ahead of the pack, in fact, that, to quote Dave Cameron, his season might “go down as the best season any catcher has ever had in the history of the game.” That might sound like hyperbole, but in Mauer’s case it’s not. He won’t have the counting stats of Mike Piazza’s 1997 season, because Mauer missed the first month of the season, but his rate stats are as good as any catcher ever. Since catcher is obviously the most demanding position, and since so few catchers can actually hit, it’s tough to argue against Mauer as the AL’s best player in 2009.

The middle word in the acronym is what gives everyone trouble. Humans have tried to define value since we created the term, but to this day it remains ambiguous. Does “most valuable” mean best? If not, what does it mean? Baseball writers try to define it for themselves, and then vote on the MVP award accordingly. They are issued a set of criteria on which to base their selections, and even though said criteria makes no mention of a player’s place on a playoff team, many writers will vote only for players in a pennant chase. How can a player be most valuable to his team, the reasoning goes, if his team didn’t do anything?

Because of MVP’s ambiguous definition, there’s actually a conversation about who should take home this year’s hardware. So far as the Yankees are concerned, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira have entered the picture, though, again, neither is having as good a season as Mauer. They’re both not only on a playoff team, but the clear-cut best team in baseball. Other outsiders include Kevin Youkiis, Miguel Cabrera, and Kendry Morales. But once the ballots are filled out, it’s likely to be Mauer, Jeter, or Teixeira.

Ben, Mike, and I do not have votes. Even if the powers that be at the BBWAA decided one morning to go out and get full frontal lobotomies, they probably still wouldn’t let bloggers sniff a postseason award vote. But that won’t stop us from trying. Hell, I’m not even going to make my own argument. I’m going to cite two arguments from other writers, neither really associated with the Yankees, who have interesting takes on the term “value,” and in each case find a Yankee worthy of the MVP crown.

First up is Tommy Rancel, normally of DRays Bay, but here writing for Beyond the Boxscore. His pick for MVP is so out of the box that he doesn’t even play every day.

In 2007 the Boston Red Sox won the AL East, the AL pennant and the World Series. Who was on that team? Eric Hinske. Foolishly after 2007, the Sox let Hinske go to rival Tampa Bay. What happened in 2008? They lost to the Rays in the ALCS, and a team that had never won anything ended up AL East Champions, won the AL pennant and only lost the World Series thanks to B.J. Upton (when in doubt always blame B.J. Upton). Not learning from Theo Esptein’s mistake, Andrew Friedman let Hinske walk after the season.

Hinske then went to the Pirates, where he kinda sucked, posting just a .741 OPS with, get this, one homer. Rancel explains the change between the Pirates and the Yanks: “He needs a challenge. He is not an old starting pitcher who can’t handle the AL East. Hinske NEEDS the AL East. Since joining the Yankees his OPS is .949 with seven home runs in 65 at-bats. If you give him 600 at-bats he would hit 65 home runs at this current pace; baller.”

For those not following the argument, Rancel even includes a nifty graph which explains everything in straight forward terms.

QED, as my math buddies would say.

On a more serious, though still pretty ridiculous, note, Nick Kapur of Ump Bump takes a look at the WPA leader boards and finds another Yankee sitting atop, at least for position players: Johnny Damon. His 4.27 WPA sits behind Zack Greinke, 4.81, and Justin Verlander, 4.31, but is out ahead of the next highest position player, Jason Bay at 4.04, by a decent margin. Since WPA tracks the ebbs and flows of a game, trying to place a greater value on high-pressure situations, it could be argued that Johnny Damon is the position player most valuable to his team.

This presumes that we can evaluate a player in terms of WPA by adding up his figures from each game, coming up with a nice, neat number. This, I fear, is not the case. WPA is a nice narrative tool. It can show who made the biggest impact in any given game, and even then it has its shortcomings. For instance, it will oftentimes award a reliever, who pitches one inning late in the game, more points than a starter who went seven strong, but allowed a couple of runs and got no offense.

Yes, Johnny Damon has had some stupendously clutch hits this season. He’s been a rock in the No. 2 spot, providing timely hits and bombs over the short porch in right. That’s helped boost his WPA for sure, but it does not make him the MVP. Not of the AL, not even of the Yankees. It’s not a knock on Damon, really, but rather a testament to the seasons of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.

Let me ‘splain. … No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Joe Mauer is the AL MVP. We can have fun talking about how it could be Mark Teixeira or Derek Jeter, and when the votes are counted it could very well be one of those two. But if the writers were more concerned with awarding the MVP to the league’s most outstanding player and not trying to come up with definitions of the term value, it would be Mauer. And it wouldn’t be particularly close.

Categories : Whimsy
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Without sounding too sacrilegious, I don’t really want to talk about Derek Jeter. His Lou Gehrig-tying hit — a groundball single down the right field line — stole the spotlight from a great game, and while Derek deserves his accolades, we’ll save those for tomorrow. Instead, let’s talk about Joba, the bullpen and Jorge.

Wednesday’s game against Tampa Bay carried with it a narrative of redemption for Joba. As we all know, Chamberlain, working through short starts brought about by his innings limit, has been awful of late. Prior to tonight, Joba had thrown 26 innings over six starts and had an ERA of 7.96. While he had 20 strike outs in that span, he also issued 17 walks and allowed 37 hits. Opponents were hitting an Albert Pujols-like .330/.423/.500 off of the youngster.

As Jason Barlett’s home run sailed over the left field wall to start the game, I groaned. Here we go again with Joba. He was throwing poorly-placed pitches with low 90s velocity and no approach. How, I wondered, would he be used in the bullpen in the playoffs if he was going to allow three hits, a walk and two runs on 32 pitches in one inning? Even John Flaherty, one of the few remaining vocal B-Jobbers, questioned the lack of velocity from Chamberlain.

Five batters through the game, the Yankees were in danger of facing a blowout. After Bartlett’s home run, Carl Crawford singled, and Evan Longoria swung through a terrible pitch for a gift out. Crawford stole third, Ben Zobrist walked, and a Pat Burrell single put the Rays up 2-0 with runners on first and second and one out.

Then, something happened. Derek Jeter calmly walked to the mound, and in a rare moment of emotion on the field, he got in Joba’s face. After the game, Joba danced around the issue, saying only that Derek told him to “slow it down” and throw strikes. More telling, though, was Joba’s comment that Derek rarely gets in anyone’s face. He leads by example and not by anger. Tonight, though, Derek had seen enough and whatever he said produced results.

Joba reared back and finished off very strong. He struck out Chris Richard and Gabe Gross to escape the first. He needed just 14 pitches to mow through the Rays in the 2nd and nine in the 3rd. Five ground-outs and one fly-out later, Joba’s night was over due to his pitch count. By the end of his start, he was sitting at 95 with his fastball and had a rhythm and urgency on the mound we’ve rarely seen this year. It was progress indeed.

With Joba out of the game, the Yankees needed to get six innings of work from the bullpen while facing a stingy and dominant Jeff Niemann. Using a sinking fastball and solid breaking pitches, Niemann carved up the Yankee offense. Through seven innings, he had allowed no runs on seven hits and eight strike outs. He pitched out of jams a few times, and the Yanks were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position against Niemann.

As Niemann went to work, so did the Yankee pen. Al Aceves threw three hitless innings, striking out three and issuing one walk. Jonathan Albaladejo threw two hitless innings, and in the 8th, the Yankees got their chance.

With a bad bullpen, Niemann came out for the 8th and gave up a hit to Alex Rodriguez. Joe Maddon then brought in a right-handed pitcher to face Hideki Matsui, and the Yanks’ DH singled. With runners on first and third and no on out, Nick Swisher hit a potential double play to Chris Richard at first, but Richard threw the ball into left field. 2-1 Tampa, runners on the corners, no one out. Robinson Cano struck out, and up came Jorge Posada.

Jorge worked the count full and then wailed on a 94-mph four-seamer. The ball soared into the right field stands, and the Comeback Kids had struck again. Down to their final five outs, the Yankees had taken a 4-2 lead. The bullpen – Brian Bruney and Phil Coke — would throw another hitless inning, and the sweep was in the bag.

This night will be long remembered as the evening Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig’s franchise hit record. It is one of the first historic moments in the new Yankee Stadium. Yet, we shouldn’t overlook the game. The Yankees held Tampa hitless for 8.2 innings, and they moved 41 games over .500. The Magic Number is 14; Joba showed some signs of life; and the Yankees continued to roll through the American League.

Categories : Game Stories
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